It’s so easy to read a report that claims that anti-bullying programs actually increases incidents of bullying and throw your hands up in despair. But the truth is, that it isn’t the principle of teaching such skills to our students that is the problem it is the strength of the material and how its core messages are backed up within the school culture.
A major issue for school anti-bullying programs are that they are conducted in the classroom. The classroom in many cases has a stigma and therefore it is hard to find a program that doesn’t feel like more schoolwork. Additionally, many such programs feel preachy, saccharine and completely out of touch with the lives and interests of the student population. Lastly, teaching students to value and respect others is extremely difficult to pull off in an environment where many students feel undervalued and disrespected. How do you get students to respect others when they have trouble respecting themselves?
In other words, it is the range of programs that is to blame, not the principle of teaching children how to treat each other. That’s why I was fortunate in 2011 to discover what I believe to be the most refreshing, innovative and groundbreaking addition to what has become a tired and listless genre. A series of anti-bullying films entitled How to UnMake a Bully is, from my experience, able to speak to school aged children in a way nothing I have come accross ever has. Amongst other important life skills, it focuses on strategies for supporting victims of bullying, helping bullies change, empowering bystanders, reacting to low and high grade bullying scenarios, creating a schoolyard united stance on bullying, respecting others and ones self and adapting to change. My love for these movies and the way in which my students have responded to them have made a world of difference to my students’ lives and actions. So much so, that their fan letters and a subsequent Skype session with the cast and crew led to their participation in one of the upcoming films in this extraordinary series.
Instead of feeling despondent about anti-bullying programs, please watch these films (which I have posted below for your convenience) with your students. It will entertain and move them, whilst also setting a framework for increased communication, awareness and overall empowerment.